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Performax defends pricing

Value-add: The cost of importing and converting US vehicles to RHD is high but some netizens have taken issue with the price Performax charges for the Ford F-250 in Australia.

Keyboard-warriors unfair to criticise cost of RHD-converted US vehicles: Performax

General News logo9 Sep 2014

QUEENSLAND based US vehicle importer and converter Performax International says it brushes off comments posted on automotive websites that critically compare its Ford F-250 prices to the cost of the same vehicle in its native US.

Performax invites critics to try sourcing, importing, shipping, researching, tooling up, converting and gaining compliance to register a vehicle for less, while achieving the same quality and comprehensive four-year warranty coverage.

Several forum users have pointed out that the Performax opening price of $105,000 plus on-road costs for the base F-250 variant is more than triple the $US31,045 ($A33,104) listed on the Ford USA website for the least expensive F-250, but Performax says this is an unfair comparison.

Its entry-level offering in Australia is the diesel dual-cab 4x4 XL variant with added extras and not the petrol single-cab 4x2 with no options quoted above.

Using Ford USA’s vehicle website, GoAuto configured an F-250 XL to the same specification and equipment level of Performax's base-model and arrived at a total of just under $US50,000 ($53,317) excluding taxes.

As part of last week’s F-250 launch, media representatives toured the Performax factory in Gympie, 170km north of Brisbane, where the research and development, specialist labour, bespoke components and painstaking manual processes involved engendered a consensus of surprise that the company can turn a profit.

During the factory tour GoAuto witnessed workers adapting complex dashboard wiring looms by hand – taking care not to damage or lose any connectors as they are not available as spares from the manufacturer.

Other employees were hand-finishing plastic components that go into dashboards and climate-control systems.

Performax general manager Glenn Soper revealed that the company has to effectively pay retail prices to a broker for each F-Series truck and gets no special wholesale or fleet rates from the Ford factory.

“We’re paying retail,” he said. “If there are incentives on (at the time of ordering from the broker) we can take advantage of those but we are pretty much paying what any American person would pay for the truck.”

Company director Greg Waters added that the Luxury Car Tax is levied on the whole vehicle cost, including what Performax incurs for the conversion to right-hand drive – and while the F-250 and some Chevrolet Silverado variants benefit from Australia’s Free Trade Agreement with the USA, most US trucks are built in Canada or Mexico so attract a five per cent import levy.

Asked about warranties, Mr Soper said Performax has zero comeback with vehicle manufacturers if anything, even unrelated to their conversion, goes wrong and has to shoulder all warranty responsibilities.

“Let’s say that tomorrow the engine developed a porous block, we would be left holding the baby with that and we would need to recall that batch number and we would have to cover that at our cost,” he explained.

“We have a bumper-to-bumper warranty that exceeds what Ford offer, it’s a four-year, 120,000km warranty that is underwritten by ourselves and we have all the programs in place to cover any recall campaigns under three different levels of recall campaigns.

“We did our due diligence on the warranty and feel comfortable that (the F-series) has come a long way from previous models and the warranty costs aren’t over the top in the US so we’ve got peace of mind there.”

Mr Soper explained that a lot of perfectly good LHD parts, such as expensive steering boxes, get discarded as it is not economically viable to ship them overseas for sale secondhand – and converting each F-truck requires around 250 major new components.

Tooling for some of these parts is costly – for example the high-pressure injection mould to make dashboards for the new Chevrolet Silverado cost $200,000, taking hundreds of hours to make and finesse.

Converting each vehicle also requires serious amount of research and development – usually without any input from the original manufacturer.

Mr Soper explained that in the absence of eligibility for any of Ford’s engineering partner programs, achieving full-volume ADR compliance for the F-series cost $2.5 million.

The company employs five full-time engineers purely for checking over conversions for the compliance paperwork on all its vehicles and holds around $600,000 worth of spare parts stock at any one time – enough to cover any vehicle it has converted for at least the past seven years.

There is also an electronics engineer responsible for figuring out how to make everything work after a right-hand drive conversion in today’s increasingly computerised vehicles, without causing diagnostic error codes and other malfunctions.

For example, it is no longer simply a case of re-wiring tail-light clusters to have Australian-spec orange turn indicators (they are red on US cars) due to a combination of LED lighting and the CANBUS system that makes adjusting these things more about computer code than physical wiring.

Touchscreen infotainment systems also pose a challenge, especially in vehicles like the F-250 where climate-control functions are accessed this way and the driver/passenger display needs flippingPerformax has also figured out how to add Australian satellite navigation software into the F-series touchscreen and make it work with Ford’s Sync voice control system.

The screens are fitted into a new right-hand drive version of the original dashboard structure and trimmed in coverings accurately matching the quality and texture of the left-hand drive originals.

Performax even has an on-site facility for recreating the faux wood-grain effects used by the original manufacturers.

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